Three-dimensional printing is moving from niche to mainstream. And companies that don't start looking into how the technology could improve business will be at an innovative disadvantage to rivals who are taking the technology seriously.
That's the main message in a new report from Gartner, a leading IT research and advisory company. The report says that while 3D printing is gaining broader acceptance, now is a good time to experiment with the technology -- looking for ways to be more efficient, save money, and improve products -- because the prices for 3D printers are falling and will continue to decline. By 2016, the company says, enterprise-class 3D printers will be available for under $2,000, making experimentation possible without financial risk and with high potential.
"Early adopters can experiment with 3D printers with minimal risk of capital or time, possibly gaining an advantage in product design and time to market over their competition, as well as understanding the realistic material costs and time to build parts," the report said.
Recently we've seen major shoe companies Nike and New Balance use 3D printing to manufacture and customize parts of their shoes, something that would have been much more time consuming, if not impossible, with traditional manufacturing. But its also startups -- like this business that developed a 3D printer vending machine -- that are working to push 3D printing into the mainstream by making them more accessible and coming up with ideas that could be used or brought by big retailers.
For major multinational corporations, Gartner sees a market for selling 3D printing supplies. It also envisions retailers having 3D printing kiosks where customers can print variations of products on the spot.
But the bottom line: Now is the time to act on 3D printing.
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